Well, maybe you didn’t ask that question, but here’s the answer anyway. Popular Culture is culture in North America. I’m sure the contemporary art world wouldn’t love to hear me say that, but I really believe it’s true. Well, not entirely. Contemporary art, New Music, Contemporary Dance, and other forms of ‘high culture’ are also culture in our society. Having said that, often times they feel like they’re on the fringes of our culture. They often rely on government grants (which I support) and donations from wealthy patrons to keep themselves afloat. And to be fair some of these things can generate a good deal of wealth on their own. In contemporary art there are a large number of artists who make big bucks selling their work through exclusive galleries. And ‘blockbuster’ art exhibitions at major art museums can draw huge crowds. Which, I suppose means there’s always hope for any individual contemporary artist to hit the big time and make real money. And there’s also a chance that they’ll win the lottery! Of course, that also applies to people who want to be rock stars and famous actors, but I digress.
My point here, is that the cultural ‘content’ that generates the most buzz, i.e. water cooler conversations etc, is movies, TV shows and popular music. As big as any given blockbuster art exhibition gets, I suspect that San Diego Comic Con dwarfs any of them. Admittedly I haven’t done the research, so I’m just guessing, but does anyone doubt it? Please reply in the comments—ah shit—I’ll get that working eventually!
Anyway, as regular readers of this blog know, I started to really engage with pop culture during my MFA when I created my faux Cowpunk star alter-ego Stan Dickie (click here to read the blog post about him). At the time, it seemed to me that a character that references pop culture would be relatable, or at least interesting to my audience, even a so called ‘cultured’ audience. Most of them probably have their favourite rock/R & B/country/hip hop stars and binge Netflix too, no? More importantly, I’d be lying if I said that most of my own culture growing up and into adulthood wasn’t pop culture. So if I’m going to be true to myself, it makes sense to engage with pop culture in my work.
When I was working on my Menagerie series of human animal chimeras I was doing paintings of powerful people such as Presidents, Prime Ministers, Kings and Queens. I was showing
that work at a local venue in the West End of Winnipeg that often hosted Game of Thrones parties. I decided to do a couple of paintings just for them, of Ned Stark and Danaerus Targaryen. That got me thinking about how those characters are almost as real as real Kings and Queens. The Queen of England apparently truly believes that God placed her on the throne. She truly believes in the mythology of the British Crown. But mythology is what it is. It’s really no different than the mythologies created by George R.R. Martin except that they take place in a fictional realm. And I also suspect that almost as many people love their mythical characters as much as they’re (equally) mythical, yet some how actual, Queen. All this just got me thinking again about how our connection to pop culture is just as relevant as any other aspect of our culture. So it was time to dive head first into making more and more art based on pop culture. You might even call it “pop art”? Who woulda thunk it?
Next week I’ll talk about my own connection to pop culture and tell you about my favourite musicians, movies and TV shows.